Mother Teresa Joins Legal Fray over Abortion

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MOTHER TERESA'S lawyers."

It sounds like the punch line for another joke about the legal trade. But there they were, large as life on a sunny afternoon this week, standing outside the Supreme Court. They were there to publicize their client's filing of a brief in a case that abortion opponents want the justices to consider.

"Mother Teresa is more profound than we often recognize," said her lead counsel, Robert George. "She casts a moral light on situations. . . . She's someone who can see wrong and knows wrong when she sees it." So, like anyone else, she decided to get a lawyer.

The case began in Morristown, N.J., when Alexander Loce learned his fiancee was going to have an abortion. His decision to try to stop it is what led Mother Teresa (or her lawyers) to the steps of the nation's highest court. Whether they'll get in the door is another question.

Loce tried to get a court order to prevent his fiancee from having the abortion, but failed. Then, on the day she went to the clinic, Loce and a group of anti-abortion supporters went, too. They bound themselves with handcuffs and bicycle locks to block the entrance to the operating rooms. They were arrested and charged with trespassing. The doctors performed the abortion.

At his trial, Loce's lawyers presented evidence on when human life begins, arguing that because the fetus was a person, Loce had a right to prevent the abortion. A municipal judge found that the fetus was a person, but said that didn't justify Loce's attempt to infringe on his fiancee's constitutionally protected right to an abortion. The judge convicted Loce and the other defendants guilty of "defiant trespass," a petty offense. They were fined from $30 to $250, and appealed.

The New Jersey appeals court declined to rule on the when-life-begins question, noting that the right to an abortion was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court as recently as 1992. The state supreme court declined to review the case, setting up Loce's plea to Washington.

When it recognized the constitutional right to an abortion in 1973, the Supreme Court specifically refused to decide when life begins.

"When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer," wrote Justice Harry Blackmun. …